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Friday, January 23, 2009

A Nice Surprise Today!

It's always nice to find a package in the mail! Today I got one of my favorite gifts - a book. My friend Madonna sent me a second editon copy of "The Fellowship of the Ring" by J.R.R. Tolkien. It's a wonderful book, and one I haven't read in many a year. I'm delighted to have it, and will enjoy it all over again.

It's the second book she's sent me recently. "The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging" by Arianna Huffington and friends arrived in time for my birthday although she mailed it from St. Louis on December 12th. Given our record snows in December I'm surprised it's not still in a drift somewhere. It's a good book, and I have been using some of her hints in this blog. Madonna says I'm going to get rich off it someday. I could live with that. It's a great book if you are thinking about starting your own blog. You might want to check it out.

I've recieved other books as gifts this year, too...One of them I'll feature in another "episode" of my blog because it's a cool naturalist/travel book from my friend Laurie.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Vision for the Dog Tracking Photos

This was Jackson, my last dog, and his tracks in the snow...It would be better if he was standing and outside, but you can see his body type, and his feet are visible...the track photo is not bad. The pink ruler stands out, and there are both front and back tracks in the picture. Can you tell which is which?
Jackson was a 40 pound mixed breed - my vet though Shar Pei and Jack Russell among other things...Don't ever do that on purpose! He was healthy, except that he was born with a shallow right hip socket, which caused muscle loss and pain in that hip. He limped badly when tired.
I think it will be fun to see how many dog and dog track photos we can collect in one place...we might even learn something. If your dog has any type of foot, leg, hip or shoulder injury or disease, please mention it, as we might see it in the tracks!
To be included in the experiment, send photos as a jpeg attachment in an e-mail to me at ...
I'll start putting them up as they come in.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Domestic Dog Tracking Project

I've been wondering if anyone would like to play along with my Tracking Intensive project...Here's what I have in mind.

What if I invited you to take a photo of your dog and a photo of your dog's track?Would you e-mail them to me so that I could put them in a photo album on our new school "Village" web site? It might be fun to see a bunch of dogs and their tracks all in one spot.

Tomorrow, I'll have an example of what I'd like to see you send. I'm thinking a full body shot of the dog (no people - I'm not tracking people) and a good close up of the dog's tracks, preferably with something for scale - a penny works great if you don't have a ruler in your camera bag.

Is anyone interested? Let me know!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Substrate Happens

I bet you never thought you'd
be looking at a photo of cow
poop on my blog...
In tracker lingo, it's scat, not poop. In this
case, it's the only trackable substrate I found in Arkansas last week. Apparently the rainy season here in the Seattle area is not the rainy season 3 hours northeast of Little Rock.
My sister promised the opportunity to track armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) while visiting...I was excited because they are unlike any other North American mammal, and are the only living member of their family Cingulata. They are native to Central America, but have moved up through the Southern states. The order Xenarthra also contains anteaters and sloths...none of which I'll get to track in the Pacific Northwest.
This is not the track of an armadillo...I didn't see anything that I could identify as such...the red clay, rocky soil was too dry for me to see anything resembling armadillo tracks. I did find this nice front and back track of another Midwest mammal. Can you guess what it is? I believe a fat groundhog, or woodchuck (Marmota monax),passed through this nice round bit of "substrate" before it was completely dry. The closest thing I'll see here in Washington is a Marmot (yellowbellied or hoary), so it's still a cool track photo to have in my collection.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Travels of a Tracker

So here's the story I've been wanting to
tell for a couple of weeks, but couldn't.

My old Missouri friends sent me a surprise for my
birthday, and I couldn't blog about it because I didn't
know if my Mom reads my blog or not....and my sister and I have been planning a surprise 70th birthday party for her for months. She thought it was a party for Andrew, my great-nephew who turned 6 on the 5th!

My hospital co-workers sent me a banner that nearly 50 people had signed with good wishes and kind thoughts...They also collected $110 in one and five dollar bills to help me get to Arksansas for the party! I'm not the "msuhy" type, but their kindness nearly made me cry. I had been a bit worried about how I would eat on the trip...the tickets were bought, but I would be short on traveling money. You could say that it really met a need!

I flew out of Seattle just ahead of a storm that would cause record flooding in my part of the state, and which would have kept me from going at all if my flight had been 24 hours later. It was a bumpy ride out of SeaTac, and my seatmate was a twitchy fellow who wanted to talk all the way to Dallas/Ft.Worth. I hoped to sleep on that part of the trip because we left just after midnight, and I had worked most of Tuesday and was tired.

There was a 2 hour delay while our pilot to Little Rock found a plane that he liked - I'm not complaining...if the pilot doesn't trust it, I don't want to be in it. I was really gald to see my sister Susan at the gate.

It's still a 3 hour drive to Violet Hill, where she and Mom live, so we stopped to have a bit of dinner on the way. Out here in Washington, they call it lunch, but I always had breakfast, dinner and supper, so that's what we had. It's been a while since I enjoyed steak and loaded smashed potatoes with sweet tea...I have to say that Pacific Northwest cooking doesn't come close to Southern meals...I miss the food more than I realized.

Mom was truly surprised...and happy. We had a big combined birthday party for the two of us and the 6 year old. I bet that Andrew still has blue lips from the frosting on the cupcakes!

On Thursday, Mom followed me around for a couple of hours while I tracked 4 more dogs, and found groundhog tracks in a cow pie in the pasture. We spooked a whitetail doe from the old slave cemetary . No armadillos or tracks were found, much to my dismay. Susan had promised I'd see and/or track them, but the ground was dry, hard and rocky, and we didn't even see any road-killed ones to check out.

Since Tracking Intensive class was this weekend, I flew home on Friday. About 130 miles out from Seattle, the pilot noted that we could see Mounts Rainier, Adams, St. Hellens and Hood all lined up against the horizon! What a beautiful welcome home it was.

Saturday we learned about bird feathers, and on Sunday we played in silt under bridges at Fall City and thing about floods is that the tracking is really good when the water goes down. Look for more photos soon!

Monday, January 5, 2009

"Happy Birthday" as sung by the coyote choir

January 3rd was my 50th birthday. I celebrated by taking a long walk in McCormick Park. The path was still quite icy and I walked really slowly, enjoying the bird activity. Only the Stellar's Jays had been active in my neighborhood, and the robins I'd seen earlier in the week looked so stressed by the cold and snow that I worried about their survival.
I saw several small flocks of Trumpeter Swans, and was able to get one quick photo before they flew out of range. The Chickadees were busy and entertaining. I spooked a flock of Mallards off the water, and watched a noisy Kingfisher fly past.
The highlight of the walk came when the fire department sirens went off. A coyote howled from the brush on the hillside to my left! More than one, but probably fewer than 5 answered from my sounded as if I was surrounded by coyotes! It was the best verse of "Happy Birthday" I've ever been privileged to hear.
I walked a bit further and saw coyote # 10, the lone voice on my left. He was limping, but still actively hunting the hillside. I wondered if he'd hurt himself on the ice...I was limping a bit myself, having slipped (again) on an icy patch. He lives close to the highway, with cars always a danger, and at least one frequent dog walker braggs about letting her labs chase the coyotes in that stretch of park. Whatever the reason for his injury, he looked in good condition...I hope to see him again soon.

My Favorite Fiction Authors and Books

  • Suzanne Arruda- the Jade del Cameron mysteries: "The Mark of the Lion" "Stalking Ivory", "The Serpent's Daughter", "The Leopard's Prey" and "The Golden Cheetah"
  • Ken Goddard - "Balefire" and others
  • Stephen White - the Dr. Alan Gregory books are all great. "Kill Me" is my favorite.
  • Harlan Coben - anything he writes is great
  • Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody mysteries

My Favorite Nonfiction Authors and Books

  • "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown- 2nd edition coming soon!
  • Gavin De Becker - "The Gift of Fear"
  • "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales- the best survival book I've ever read! Not a how-to, its more of a who does,and why.
  • Candice Millard - "The River of Doubt -Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey"
  • Anything that starts with "Peterson's Field Guide To..."
  • Tom Brown, Jr. - "The Tracker" and others
  • Mark Elbroch - "Mammal Tracks and Sign" and "Animal Skulls"